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2022 Grants Challenge

Community Reinvestment in Women of Color Entrepreneurs

This project will drive resources toward innovative solutions that support women of color entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. We will achieve this by creating stronger relationships between banks looking to meet Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) obligations and community development opportunities that could benefit from CRA-motivated financing. After a kick-off convening for stakeholders to identify a project pipeline and potential funders, we will host workshops to drive funding and development support to individual projects.

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What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

BIPOC- and Women-Owned Businesses

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Entrepreneurship is an avenue to economic mobility for low-income individuals. Women of color face greater challenges accessing opportunities to build their own businesses, with women owned firms comprising less than 50% of all firms in the city and creating less profit than male-owned firms. This project will drive resources toward supporting women of color entrepreneurs by creating deeper connections between banks looking to meet their Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) obligations and the programs empowering women of color entrepreneurs in LA. Current pandemic recovery is an opportunity for banks to engage with the communities where they operate to understand their needs and provide the finances needed to aid community rebuilding. The city of Los Angeles is home to CDFIs, non-profit organizations advocating for small businesses, and small business advisors working through technical assistance providers: these groups require more resources to sustainably support small businesses.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

This project will entail two programmatic elements: - One kick-off convening bringing together relevant stakeholders to identify a pipeline of ideas and potential funders; and - Follow-up series of focused workshops supporting individual projects identified in the pipeline to drive funding and other necessary development support to those projects We intend to recruit past partners and new partners to participate in the project by leveraging Milken Institute relationships with bank representatives, local government officials, and community groups. We will dedicate staff and Institute resources to partnership and participant outreach, event planning, and deliverable creation. The structure of the project will include an initial kick-off conference followed by smaller, project-centric convenings to bridge the gap between ideas and their implementation. The kick-off convening will ensure that the community itself determines the direction of the project long-term by including workshops and panels where the target population will drive the conversation and be part of the solution. Following the kick-off convening, as well as each small regional workshop, we will produce a brief summary of takeaways and action items from the event. These summaries will be published on the Milken Institute’s website.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

In the short term, our goal for this project is to bring together cross-sections of stakeholders from local government, community groups, and financial institutions to create a blueprint for a more coordinated, accessible entrepreneurial ecosystem for women of color in Los Angeles. In the long term, we expect to see the blueprint implemented, in part due to the organic relationships that develop out of this project. The impact to LA would be an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is accessible, easy to navigate, and specifically attuned to the needs of women of color in Los Angeles. Ultimately, this progress will support the financial security and economic mobility of women of color.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

In the short term, we will define and measure success by the level of participation in the kick-off convening and subsequent regional workshops. We will track this data quantitively by capturing attendance and qualitatively by conversing with, and receiving feedback from, participants. We aim to host up to 100 attendees at the kick-off convening and 15-20 attendees in the two subsequent regional workshops. In the long term, we will define and measure success by observing any increase in the percentage of women-owned firms in LA, their longevity, their employee count, and their profitability compared to current 2022 rates.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 150

Indirect Impact: 1,000